In 2017, a few major companies like Microsoft, SAP, and JP Morgan Chase decided to create the Autism at Work Employer Roundtable to swap best hiring and workplace practices for employees with autism.
They did this because they wanted to help other companies see the high return on investment in hiring and training autistic employees, especially since around 80% of people with autism remain unemployed even though many are highly educated and want to work.
One leader at Chase even said, “Our autistic employees achieve, on average, 48 percent to 140 percent more work than their typical colleagues, depending on the roles.”
If your organization is invested in hiring more employees with autism, too, here are some best practices you’ll want to keep in mind for their training and development.
Understand the Autism Spectrum and Accommodate Employees Accordingly
It’s important to understand that autism is a neurological condition that is diagnosed on a spectrum. While there are some common symptoms and signs of autism that an individual can exhibit, some individuals only exhibit slight autistic behaviors and neurological patterns while others exhibit behaviors and neurological patterns on the extreme end of the spectrum and aren’t able to live an independent lifestyle.
When interviewing, onboarding, and training employees with autism, first understand who they are on an individual level and where they fall on the autism spectrum while also assessing what they can do.
Each individual with autism will be different and require slightly different accommodations, but there will still be some commonalities. Most individuals with autism might not want to shake hands with coworkers, for instance, or may not be able to pick up on common social situations that entail emotions like sarcasm or laughter during meetings.
Provide Clear Instructions and Regular Feedback
When training and developing autistic employees, be sure to offer them clear instructions on what is required of them, as they will likely follow everything you tell them explicitly and literally with extreme attention to detail.
Don’t expect them to make inferences or to understand or follow insinuations. And don’t expect most employees with autism to switch their schedules around or be comfortable with changing their assigned tasks and duties at the last minute, as they often excel in environments that offer routines and structure.
Also, provide employees with autism with daily feedback regarding what they should continue to do and what they need to do differently, especially as they train for new roles and are new to your organization.
Pair Employees with a Mentor
When onboarding employees with autism, pair them with someone who can introduce them to others across your organization and someone who can be there for them as they navigate the social nuances and intricacies of your organization.
This workplace mentor should also be someone who can help them navigate stressful situations that arise in the workplace and who can offer guidance and support when they’re unsure of what to do or where to go.